Charlotte Kills by Reb MacRath (A Review)

A Review by Don Sloan

Boss MacTavin is a hardboiled P.I. with a penchant for pursuing cases in which even the most grievous wrongs can be righted.

It’s a fine line, but the Southern Scot walks it well, dispensing Corrections as needed and required.

Consider, for example the caper involving a mobster’s nephew, run down one night outside a seedy Charlotte, N.C. neighborhood bar. The circumstances are suspicious right from the start, but grow murkier still with a visit to the victim’s widow, described here in some of the most compelling writing we’ve seen this year:

“She had the sort of smoke and whiskey voice that would have caused Ulysses to have his men lash him for life to a mast.”

But even that delicious description pales in comparison to a dozen other loquacious gems embedded liberally throughout this stellar whodunit:

“The limo smooth-rolled to a stop in an alley from a sci-fi flick about a soulless future.”

And, this:

“He looked like fifty shades of bland mixed with a hundred of frightened to death.”

And finally this zinger:

“She didn’t have a mustache, so I stroked mine with one finger.”

Zowie. So much good writing, so little time in this new noir classic.

Anyway, Boss’s search for the truth leads him to the Queen City on a mission to ascertain just what happened — and who’s responsible — for the death of Don Sal Vittale’s nephew Cameron Hendricks.

Don Vito Cordalini’s son — appropriately named Sonny — is accused of giving the unfortunate Cam a vigorous shove into the street, but he demurs under intense — and brutal — questioning by the don’s goons.

A mystery girl named Dorie was allegedly involved, he says, but more details are not forthcoming from Sonny, who is now missing two fingers.

“I can’t wait to start on his tootsies!” one of the goombahs cries gleefully.

The search for answers leads Boss down some of Charlotte’s meaner streets and pairs him up with a drop-dead gorgeous partner who can also kick some serious butt.

That proves to be a bonny boon when Boss finally tracks down Dorie Chance, The Happening Girl. But what was her role in the accidental death that wasn’t? And why is Boss suddenly in deadly peril, swirled in a mysterious mist?

In the book’s second part, Boss teams with his petite but deadly partner Dirty Boy and long-time Personal Assistant Estelle to give the don his due. Both dons, as it turns out.

This story is equal parts Spillane and Spielberg, feature film-like in its imagery and superb in its intricate plot construction. The characters are, as they say, well-drawn, and keep the reader guessing until the very end as to who really is the bad guy — or girl.

Five-plus stars to Charlotte Kills and to writer Reb McRath, who has authored yet another cunningly crafted installment in the Boss MacTavin series.

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